Why Lack of Justice for Other Rapists Does Not Excuse Bill Cosby of a Damn Thing
Y’all…are we really having this conversation? It’s 2018, and I thought we were better than this. With as many so-called “woke” people as I have up and down my various timelines, it is astonishing to see how many folks are either sleepwalking or flipping their wokeness on and off like a light switch, in the wake of the Bill Cosby verdict. Because far too many people seem to have lost their minds with the jury’s decision, I would like to take a moment to weigh in on the madness.
Bill Cosby has been a famous comedian and actor for over 50 years, most known for playing the beloved Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable in the groundbreaking sitcom, The Cosby Show. After its 1984 debut, The Cosby Show quickly gained notoriety and praise for being one of the first major sitcoms to present positive portrayals of the Black family dynamic on TV. While there had been numerous other television programs about Black familiespreviously, The Cosby Show was arguably the first to present audiences with a Black family living outside the stereotypes often associated with African American life; instead of living a life of struggle, the Huxtables were a two-parent household headed by college educated parents, a practicing doctor and attorney, who both maintained careers while being active parents to their five children. Instead of living in a housing project, the family lived comfortably in a New York brownstoneand sent nearly all of the children off to college during the show’s eight-season run (1984-1992). The Cosby Show and itsspinoff series, A Different World, were both credited with empowering the Black community through a positive aesthetic, trailblazing a path for more positive television programs with predominantly Black casts, and inspiring Black youth to go to college.
In his spare time, Bill Cosby led a seemingly admirable life. He married his wife, Camille, in 1964 and they had five children, which inspired the life of his television persona. He was an avid supporter of many charitable causes, including literacyinitiatives, higher education, and children with learning disabilities. A little-known fact is that Cosby became a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. in 1988. He has been a recipient of many awards and over 52 honorary degrees from various institutions. In addition to being family-oriented philanthropists, the Cosby’s are also widely known as dedicated art collectors with an expansive catalogue of over 300 pieces.
However, despite Bill Cosby’s charitable contributions and playing a beloved father figure to the Black community, we now know that he had some other hobbies long kept in the dark, including drugging and sexually assaulting women.
When allegations of Cosby’s sexual abuse first appeared in 2015, Americans were appalled. African Americans were even more astounded because of the personal connections many of us had formed while growing up with the inspiring Dr. Huxtable on our television screens. Bill Cosby, now age 80, was convicted of three counts of aggravated indecent assault on April 26, 2018. While he is currently awaiting sentencing, Cosby faces up to 10 years in prison and up to $125,000 in fines for each of his convicted charges.
As expected, there has been a public outpouring of emotion from Black America since the verdict was announced. I completely understand how troubling it is to see an icon fall from grace, and I admit that it is sad to see what has come of Cosby’s legacy. However, I cannot relate on any level to my Black brothers and sisters who have had the audacity to imply that Bill Cosby should not have been convicted because numerous other white sex offenders in the entertainment industry have not been taken to trial. I have seen this assertion made by more people than I can count and can honestly say that it has grown more disgusting each time I’ve seen it. I understand the point that people are attempting to make, but it is still not okay.
Although we do live in a country in which Black men are disproportionally convicted and over-sentenced for the same crimes being committed by their white counterparts, this does not minimize nor excuse the monstrous acts committed by Cosby in my book. Regardless of the wholesome role he played on TV, Bill Cosby intentionally obtained Quaaludes (illegal sedatives), drugged women, and sexually violated them allegedly throughout his career. While Cosby’s conviction is in relation to one woman (former Temple University employee Andrea Constand), Cosby has actually faced allegations from over 60 women. I do not care how long ago the crimes were committed, nor do I care that Cosby is now a crusty, frail old man. He still deserves to be punished for his actions, and I am glad to see that he is about to trade his fine fabrics for prison scrubs. Instead of standing up for him because others have not been brought to justice, I am standing in my belief that ALL sexual abusers need to be prosecuted to the highest extent of the law. I will not entertain the insinuation that Cosby is exempt because he has been a Black role model. In my eyes, he is no different from the uncle at many cookouts who is somehow still allowed to come around, despite having molested multiple generations of girls (and/or boys) in the family. The same way I don’t think kinfolk should be exempt from legal action when sexually assaulting family members, I don’t believe in excusing skinfolk either. Period.
Have we really become so misguided as a people that so many of us would honestly fight to protect a man who took advantage of women’s bodies?
Why is it that Cosby’s status, blackness, and age have all been cited, by Black people, as reasons why he should not have been convicted? I guess the reasons are similar to those influencing people to still attend R. Kelly concerts: Some people’s woke-ness seems to be selectively less fervent in matters of calling out guilty Black people. Even more, the consciousness and activism of some seems to falter in matters of standing up for and protecting women against sexual abuse. Despite the disparities African Americans face in the criminal justice system, let us not allow our judgement to become so clouded with celebrity endearment that we excuse the misdeeds of those who are actually guilty.
I’m sure I’ve probably made a few people mad at this post, and that’s okay (feel free to leave your comments below). I’m just waiting for someone to hit me with: Come on, how can you be so critical of Cliff Huxtable? You can’t really believe he did all that?
My answer is simple. Yes, I do believe that he was capable of doing all that he was accused of doing because I acknowledge that Bill Cosby and Dr. Cliff Huxtable are two different people. Dr. Huxtable was not accused of doing anything because, while he was morally and socioeconomically admirable, the fact remains that Heathcliff Huxtable is nothing more than a fictional character who was portrayed by a gifted actor on a television show. No matter how much we may have looked up to him over the past three decades, he is not a real man. Bill Cosby, however, is a real man capable of making human mistakes and carrying out negative transgressions at his own free will. I’ve acknowledged from the beginning of the allegations that I was not there to witness the truth, so I cannot definitively say what Cosby did or did not do to his alleged victims. However, I do know that he is a man who gained positions of wealth, power, and influence, and many men throughout history have used these positions to their advantage to sexually coerce women. I do not put that possibility past him simply because I watched him play a great character on TV; thankfully, I know the difference between the two.
I challenge those defending Cosby for one reason or another, to put yourself in the victims’ shoes. Better yet, think of how you’d feel if one of the victims were a member of your family. Would you be so quick to claim his innocence and waive his pending sentence just because his show made audiences smile? Or would you want him to get what he deserves, even if it took a while?